A foodie tour of Antwerp by Buchbar’s Kim Hertogs

Opening Buchbar late 2014 was, as Kim states it, “a way to follow her dreams”. Nestled in Antwerp’s Zuid neighbourhood, Buchbar quickly achieved cult status amongst bookworms and caffeine addicts alike. A self-admitted foodie, we got together with Kim for a chat on all things culinary in her hometown of Antwerp.

I love cooking my own dinners, tinkering away in the kitchen, but unfortunately, I don’t always have time for that. Luckily, there are quite a few nice places in Antwerp where I can go for healthy and nourishing dishes. I’m quite picky when it comes to food, so you can’t just take me to any old restaurant and get away with it. At least once a week, I try to stop by at Café Stanny (Stanleystraat 1). I live just round the corner, so it’s an easy one. The food they serve is delicious: always different, always authentic. All the meat they use is organic, and there are plenty of vegetarian options, as well. It’s cosy, and not too expensive. I know some people who come by every day, and I completely understand why.  A place I would like to visit more often is Lara Kookt Voor U (Van Schonebekestraat 158). Her openings hours coincide with those of Buchbar so it’s not easy to find a gap. But it’s worth it though, because Lara’s food is magnificent. You can come here for breakfast, lunch and she also offers take-away. If only she would do delivery, it’d change my world.

Buchbar (c) Eva Donckers

When it comes to slightly fancier dining, I often head to Veranda (Lange Lobroekstraat 34). Up until recently, Veranda was closed and in the meantime the team opened Bascule. But their new location opened in 2016, right in the middle of the Antwerp Noord neighbourhood. Its interior is stunning, and so far, I’ve only heard positive comments about the menu. Davy Schellemans, Veranda’s head chef, is someone I truly admire. His cooking skills are near magical. Add to this his no-nonsense, honest approach to cooking, using the best, honest ingredients, and you have a perfect dining experience right there. Even though it sounds a tad cliché, coming here is a feast for your senses. Whenever my friends and I have something to celebrate, we book the entire place and it feels just like home. Safe to say that we’ve had some legendary evenings at Veranda. For a quick bite in the morning or lunch, BLT (Lange Lozanastraat 292) is a favourite of mine. It’s a small, cosy bar that magnificently transformed the fifties glasses store interior to a nice, bright eating spot. Chef Roman has put great things on the menu. They might seem simple at first sight, but he knows what he’s doing. I never leave disappointed. 

Buchbar (c) Eva Donckers

Another nice hang-out for lunch is Bar Vert (Helenalei 2-4), which is conveniently located right across the street. It’s so easy to pop in for a tasty, fresh salad while doing taxes or writing a few pieces. To grab a coffee I jump on my bike and head to Kolonel Koffie (Montignystraat 51). This place is very airy and bright, making it perfect to work on your laptop or read a book. Their summer terrace is perfect for warmer days. But most of the time, you can find me in my own bar. I opened Buchbar (Scheldestraat 79) two years’ ago now, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. Even though Buchbar is only around for such a short while, a lot of people tell me they see it as an ‘Antwerp staple’, like it’s been around forever. And that’s so nice to hear. I didn’t want to be the next hip thing, but I wanted to offer something different, something more to this area and the city. Over time, I got to know my clients and it’s fun to see how people feel at home here. I keep trying to offer new things. Not just new books or new choices on the menu, but also hosting events, lectures, parties, tastings, … I don’t want Buchbar to become boring, instead I want it to be and feel alive, there’s always something going on and that’s how it has to be.